I am Ariel Friedlander, I am Jewish and I am a type 1 diabetic. These two things have come to define in large part who I am and how I view the world. This year is my anniversary. Happy anniversary! Actually, it’s not an anniversary in the usual sense, not an anniversary in a good way; it’s my ten year anniversary of being a diabetic. Ever since I was three years old I have had type 1 diabetes. I prick my finger, use needles, and check carbohydrates. Being a diabetic, it is sometimes hard to find hope. When will we find a cure? Will I have a healthy, long life? But being a Jew, I can always find hope. No matter how bad it seems, there can and will still be a happy ending.
For my bat mitzvah I chose to do a community service project. It was a pretty easy decision for me. I have always been very involved with the Delaware Branch of JDRF, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Every fall I run a walk team at the Walk to Cure Diabetes in order to raise money for the foundation, I have raised over $200,000 for JDRF in my lifetime. The money we raise goes to find a cure. The really incredible part is that over 80 cents of each dollar of revenue is used for research and research education. I am able to make a difference! JDRF has always been a large part of my life because my family and I know that for a cure to be found, JDRF needs funding and with that funding, JDRF WILL find the cure. So, my community service project was a natural fit, I chose to go into the JDRF office and work behind the scenes.
I went to the JDRF Office once a week to help out, make copies, staple papers, and organize folders for events. But, it wasn’t just that. I realized that JDRF doesn’t just raise money to find a cure; JDRF also provides support for all of the families like mine that are living with the realities and challenges of Type 1 diabetes. There are a lot of misunderstandings about diabetes in general, I have heard kids say things like “just eat well and exercise and you won’t have diabetes.” That isn’t true, Type 1 diabetes can not be cured by diet and exercise, Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune response. My pancreas cannot make insulin and without insulin, my body cannot convert sugar into energy. Insulin is not a cure, it is life support. There is nothing I did to “catch” diabetes, nothing that I could have done to prevent it. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 3 years old – it as much a part of me as being Jewish.
Learning more about how the JDRF Office works for my bat mitzvah inspired me to get even more involved in being a JDRF Youth Ambassador. I have volunteered as a Youth Ambassador at JDRF events since I was really little. I want to inspire diabetics like me to look past the needles and medicine. Preparing for my bat mitzvah encouraged me to work behind the scenes at JDRF and in doing so, I had a great experience. I felt like I was really making a difference even though sometimes all I would do is put papers in folders for school walks. My religion tells me to make a difference while I am here on earth and now that my bat mitzvah is over, I have changed so much. My bat mitzvah inspired me to be a better Jew. I want to help people, be more holy, and make a difference. It wasn’t just my bat mitzvah that inspired me though.
Around May I started listening to a band, My Chemical Romance. The words of their songs inspire so much of what I do because they seem to speak to me, my faith and my reality. They have one song called “Sing” and it’s played on the radio all the time. The song is about fighting. It’s about fighting, no matter what, no matter who tries to stop you. It’s about always having hope, always. It’s about believing and sticking up for what you believe in. This is the song I always cry to when listening, the song that gives me hope. That is why I titled this article “Sing it for the Cure”.
As I said before, being a diabetic, sometimes it is hard to find hope, but through my faith as a Jew and help from JDRF and my friends and family and even through my music, I can still find it. My new motto this year is “Sing it for the Cure”. It will be my Walk to Cure Diabetes team motto and be on all of my team shirts. I think it will help tell everyone my message about fighting diabetes and always having hope for a cure. I hope to raise more money than ever before for this great cause. My Rabbi from Beth Emeth, Yair Robinson always says “everything that you do, no matter how small, makes a difference”.
I want to make a difference because on my ten year anniversary it hit me, that until JDRF finds a cure, I am a diabetic. I will always check my sugar, always be worried, and always give myself needles. I kind of ignored that for most of my life, looked past it and pretended it didn’t bother me. But this year it hit me and I felt like a deer frozen in the headlights. I could let this make me depressed or I could choose to sing for a cure. I will fight forever against diabetes, and I will never give up. It means so much to me that all my friends, family, my Temple and JDRF are behind me and support me.
November is Diabetes Awareness month and I hope that you will make a difference as well.
Sing it for the cure.
Ariel Friedlander is an 8th grader at Cab Calloway School of the Arts.